President George W. Bush has signed legislation that frees businesses from having to pump billions into pension plans in the coming year.
The measure -- which adjusts payment schedules -- is seen as another sign of the nation's deepening economic crisis. Congress approved the bill in one of its final acts of the year.
Business groups say some companies would have to have to freeze pension plans, lay off workers or even go bankrupt without the relief.
A Bush spokesman says the White House had concerns with the legislation. But he said the benefits outweigh the drawbacks given "this current economic environment."